This past weekend, I attended the first VR hackathon in New York. Not knowing what to expect, I thought it would be a good idea to read about people’s experiences at hackathons to help me prepare. Except, when I began my search, I was shocked! The top “hackathon” posts on Medium are written by intelligent women, who felt unfortunately objectified at these events! Their experiences were so negative that one woman, even put a halt to attending all future hackathons until she saw the hacker community change their behavior.
After reading these posts, I hoped my experience would be different. I wanted go to this hackathon to meet other people interested in VR, see the ideas shaping the future of VR and NOT get hit on.
Reaching Hackathon Gender Equality
At 6PM on Friday, there was a pre-hackathon event where we were to meet people and find a group that we wanted to work with. Highly cognizant of the gender ratio, I looked around the room and was ecstatic to see that almost half the entire room was filled with women! Excited, I thought, “perhaps the VR community is breaking the hacker community mold.”
To take advantage of the strong presence of women, I joined a team of four women. We decided to work together because we wanted to build for Google Cardboard and felt that our skills complimented one another. Throughout the day, I did several loops around the event: there was one other team of all women and of the remaining sixteen teams, ten had at least one woman working with them!
In fact, 40% of the people at the hackathon were women!
I checked HN, Twitter, Reddit, all of the hackathon’s slack groups and did not find any derogatory comments! In fact, I only found positive remarks, including my teammate who tweeted:
I can proudly say that at my first hackathon, I did not feel one ounce of gender bias or discrimination. Without this negative energy, everyone was able to focus and hone in on what’s really important at hackathons: thinking through problems and building creatively and quickly. Everyone was eager to help each other, an incredibly important aspect of creating VR experiences since there is no ‘how-to-guide’ yet.
I believe the collaborative atmosphere experienced this weekend, was influenced by the prominence of women. While my sample size is small, I believe the VR community will continue to differentiate itself from hacker communities of the past because the community needs strong-minded, collaborative, creative and out-of-the-box thinkers to help build the next dimension of the Internet.
For VR to be successful, content and experiences will have to be more beautiful and more immersive than anything we’ve ever seen before. I empower you from this point forward, to seek out creative-minded people, men and women alike, and ask them if they want to build the next chapter of the Internet. In the United States, women make up 51% of the population. Our goal should be for the VR community to reflect that.